Summary: The pilot and passenger who died after a Taquan Air floatplane crashed Monday have been identified. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.
The pilot who died after Monday’s floatplane crash near Metlakatla has been identified.
Ron Rash, 51, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was the pilot, according to a statement from Metlakatla Indian Community.
Sarah Luna, 31, was confirmed as the passenger.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigator and two Federal Aviation Administration officials began an onsite investigation into Monday’s fatal floatplane crash near Metlakatla, according to a press release from the Emergency Operations Center in Ketchikan.
SkyVector charts for Metlakatla that show wind created adverse conditions.
Taquan Air has not returned calls seeking comment.
The identity of the passenger who died after yesterday’s floatplane crash near Metlakatla has been confirmed as Sarah Luna, according to The Associated Press and a Facebook post by Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.
“Sarah was traveling to Metlakatla to see patients at Annette Island Service Unit with other ANTHC staff,” states the ANTHC post. “Sarah joined the ANTHC family nearly a year ago as a Senior Epidemiologist in the Liver Disease & Hepatitis Program. She was an up and coming research professional, who embodied the characteristics most valuable to our team and was truly committed to improving the health and well-being of Alaska Native people. This is a devastating personal loss for many of our staff and partners.”
A Facebook page under Luna’s name appears to show excitement about the work trip.
Taquan Air is voluntarily suspending operations until further notice, according to The Federal Aviation Administration.
Planes operated by the airline were involved in a pair of fatal crashes within the past week. One occurred yesterday, and a still-unidentified pilot and passenger died after a Beaver floatplane crashed in the water near Metlakatla.
Metlakatla Mayor Karl Cook said the community is especially quiet today.
“I think everyone’s trying to get their minds around everything yet,” Cook told the Juneau Empire this morning.
He said he was proud of the way emergency responders and residents of the reserve 20 miles south of Ketchikan responded to yesterday’s fatal plane crash.
“I’m pretty proud of the community of course,” Cook said. “I think any community in the state would respond the same way. I think the whole state would be proud of what happened here as far as the response. I feel like it’s something that’s bred in us all in Alaska to give a hand without giving it a whole lot of forethought.”
While the identities of the two deceased people who were aboard the floatplane have not been released, Cook said they were a visiting doctor and a pilot and neither are Metlakatla locals.
7:30 a.m., Tuesday, May 21
Alaska State Troopers have not yet released the names of the deceased from yesterday’s fatal crash.
However, slightly more is known this morning about the second deadly floatplane crash in Southeast Alaska within the past week.
The crash will be investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, according to the NTSB’s public relations Twitter account.
NTSB dispatched investigators from Anchorage Regional Office to investigate May 20, 2019, crash of Taquan Air Havilland DHC-2. While owned by same operator involved in May 13, 2019, mid-air collision, plane was not on sightseeing flight, was a commuter flight.— NTSB_Newsroom (@NTSB_Newsroom) May 21, 2019
According to the same tweet, the plane involved in yesterday’s crash was a commuter flight, not a flightseeing excursion.
Taquan Air has not yet released a statement, and media inquiries are being referred to the NTSB.
Monday, May 20
Two people died after a floatplane crashed in the water near Metlakatla late Monday afternoon.
A pilot and a single passenger died after a Taquan Air Beaver floatplane crashed in Metlakatla Harbor at 4:10 p.m., according to a press release from the Emergency Operations Center in Ketchikan. No others were aboard the plane.
A pilot and a single passenger are deceased after a Taquan Beaver Floatplane crashed in Metlatkatla Harbor Monday afternoon at approximately 4 p.m. There were no other individuals on board the aircraft.
The circumstances of the crash are not being released at this time. The names of the deceased will not be released until next of kin have been notified.
Fifteen members of the Metlakatla Volunteer Fire Department responded to the crash. A seine boat was first on scene.
Two medics were dispatched on board two Coast Guard Station Ketchikan 45-foot Response Boats. Air Station Sitka dispatched one Jayhawk Helicopter, which has since been rescinded to Sitka.
The Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad dispatched a 26-foot rescue boat at 4:56 p.m. with eight volunteers.
Both individuals were brought to the Annette Island Service Unit.
Good Samaritans have the aircraft in tow and are bringing the Beaver to the beach until it can be secured.
– Emergency Operation Center
The names of the deceased in Monday’s crash were not released Monday evening pending notification of next of kin.
The fatal crash comes one week after a fatal mid-air collision involving two floatplanes near Ketchikan. Six died and 10 were injured in that crash. A Taquan Air Beaver was also involved in that crash.
Both of the deceased were brought to the Annette Island Service Unit, and good Samaritans brought the Beaver to the beach until it could be secured, according to the release.
The U.S. Coast Guard received a report of the crash at 4:10 p.m., according to Public Affairs Specialist Lauren Dean.
“The Coast Guard has responded to that, but we’re not the lead on that case,” Dean said.
She said Metlakatla Police, Alaska State Troopers, local EMS and good Samaritans were able to assist the people aboard the floatplane before the Coast Guard was on the scene. Fifteen members of the Metlakatla Volunteer Fire Department responded to the crash. A seine boat was first on scene.
The Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad dispatched a 26-foot rescue boat at 4:56 p.m. with eight volunteers, according to the release.
While circumstances of the crash have not been released, Jerry Kiffer, Incident Commander for Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad told the Juneau Empire that while he could not speak to the exact conditions in Metlakatla Harbor visibility was good and there was no rain this afternoon in Ketchikan.
Kiffer said there was some slight wind, but it was not abnormally windy.
“It was a typical Ketchikan day,” he said,
Kiffer said when rescue squad personnel arrived at the site of the wreck, the two people aboard the plane had already been removed and good Samaritans had secured the float plane.
“The boat harbor there is very close to where the aircraft loads and unloads,” Kiffer said. “It’s our understanding that the air raft was landing in the harbor.”
Kiffer said he could not recall two fatal crashed happening in such quick succession.
“It’s unusual,” he said. “We have had multiple fatal accidents before, but not in recent years. I don’t really recall there being something within a week.”
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.